Senate committee approves easing Open Meeting requirements for Corporation Commission


With Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Kim David present, a State Senate Committee on Thursday approved a bill to create exemptions from the Oklahoma Public Meetings Act for the 3-member regulatory agency.

While the Oklahoma Press Association remains neutral on the issue, some wonder if there will be less transparency and the public is seeing the door closing on openness.

The vote was 10-1 in the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee as Tulsa Sen. Dave Rader commented why only Commissioner David was present and not the two other commissioners.

“If you notice, Commissioner David is with us—and Commissioner David only—because if another Commissioner attended, then they risk being out of compliance with the OMA,” he explained.

Commissioner David is a supporter of the measure along with Commission Chairman Todd Hiett. Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony opposes the measure and in an early March filing, said the Commission needed more transparency, not less.

““HB 2367 is an attempt to slam the lid down and nail shut the coffin that the Corporation Commission has attempted to build for the very costly cover-up that the special interests orchestrated to conceal their multi-billion-dollar 2021 Winter Storm profiteering and bail-outs at the expense of Oklahoma ratepayers,” he declared in the filing.

Sen. Rader carried the bill that would allow corporation commissioners to gather under 11 exemptions in the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Like those in the House where House Author, Rep. Tammy Townley professed the measure would improve efficiency at the Corporation Commission, Sen. Rader made the same claim.

“The efficiency should improve,” he told committee members. “No body is attempting to make something available that is underhanded ore untowards—this is trying to be a better and more efficient office.”

The Senator also made the same claim that Corporation Commissioners could not attend the same conference or be in the same room for fear of violating the state Open Meetings Act. However, there have been instances in the past year where all three were in attendance at conferences.

The bill includes 11 exemptions where Commissioners can meet without taking votes.

  1. Scheduling of agenda items to be set before the Corporation Commission for an emergency, regulator or special meeting.
  2. Prioritizing cases pending before the Corporation Commission.
  3. Identifying legislative changes, proposed or passed, and their effects on the Corporation Commission.
  4. Discussing public and media statements.
  5. Discussing organization structure.
  6. Discussing internal processes.
  7. Discussing staffing needs.
  8. Receiving informational updates from Corporation Commission staff on the business of the Corporation Commission.
  9. Conducting regular staff meetings where discussions of the day-to-day management of the Corporation Commission occur.
  10. Interviewing potential employees for the position of Director of Administration and Division Directors.
  11. Assessing performance reviews and duties of the Director of Administration and Division Directors.

The bill, as specified, would allow the Corporation Commissioners to attend and participate in conferences, training, educational, press and social events where the topic of these events is the Corporation Commission, even if a quorum is present, provided that no official action is taken.

The measure also requires that after such meetings allowed under the proposed law, the commissioners will provide “timely documentation” to the Commission’s website within five business days following the event. It also requires the commission, should it “wish to take potential action on the subject of a disclosed event, such potential action shall be documented at least 48 hours prior to the Corporation Commission cconsidering such item at a public meeting.”

One aspect of HB 2367 that has received little attention is the requirement that the Corporation Commission “shall implement periodic training on the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act for Commissioners and designated staff.”

During Thursday’s Committee hearing, there was no questioning regarding the required 5-day “timely documentation” or the 48-hour notice.